The Online Citizen (TOC) editor, Terry Xu, has applied to bring Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang in as third parties in the defamation suit that PM Lee filed against him last month.
Mr Xu, who is representing himself in the case, said that he wants the Prime Minister’s siblings to bear the damages if he is found to have defamed PM Lee. He added that he “reserves the right” to cross-examine Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang in court.
On 1 Sept, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a letter to Mr Xu demanding that he remove an article and a Facebook post repeating allegations made by Lee Wei Ling during the explosive 38 Oxley Road dispute in 2017.
PM Lee asked Mr Xu to immediately remove the article and Facebook post and publish a “full and unconditional apology” along with an undertaking that he would not publish similar allegations in the future. The letter warned that “PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law” if TOC does not comply.
Mr Xu declined to comply with the demands set out in PM Lee’s letter, in a response letter that was published on 4 Sept. The very next day (5 Sept), PM Lee’s lawyers served Mr Xu with a writ of summons and a statement of claim at his place of residence, initiating a defamation case against him.
On 10 Sept, Mr Xu filed a memorandum of appearance with the High Court and said that he is contesting the action brought on by PM Lee. He applied to bring PM Lee’s siblings in as third parties last Thursday (26 Sept) and filed his defence on Friday (27 Sept).
Mr Xu is arguing that the article was meant to be ironic and meant no malice. He added that the article merely repeated comments made by Mr Lee and Dr Lee between 14 June 2017 to 15 Aug 2019. As to why he wants to bring in PM Lee’s siblings as third parties, Mr Xu said:
“Other particulars relating to the truth of the allegation lie within the knowledge of LWL and LHY, and the Defendant reserves the right to cross-exam LWL and LHY to provide more information.”
The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Chang Li Lin, said on 10 Sept that PM Lee will testify in court if the case goes to trial. She added: “His siblings can decide, together with Mr Xu, whether they too will testify and repeat the allegations in court. The court can then establish the facts.”
PM Lee’s lawyers have said that the TOC article were “false and baseless” and that PM Lee “has been gravely injured in his character and reputation, and has been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt” due to the misleading article and Facebook post.
The Prime Minister is claiming damages, an injunction to restrain Mr Xu from publishing or disseminating the allegations, and costs. A pre-trial conference is scheduled to take place next month, on 15 October at 9.30am. -/TISG